Architectures have always been used to house human function or activity. Form follows function was the main principle that guided design. Frank Gehry (2014, architect) stated that the desire to see first is driving architecture. Architects no longer consider the physical, psychological and emotional connections that users make with a particular space. Criticism claims that contemporary architecture ignores human beings or any other aspect of life, focusing only on aesthetics. Design has lost its multi-sensory aspect, with smooth surfaces and white walls. The level of experience for users has been reduced because the body is what allows one to engage with, enjoy and perceive architectural spaces.

BMW’s Emar Vegt (2013), an aural design, explains the importance of the sound a door makes when closing. The sound has a direct impact on sales and is one of first impressions that a customer will have at a dealership. The door is opened and the potential customer sits inside. The sound of the engine is still impressive when he starts up the car. Sound is thus a key design element in the automobile industry. This is true for all products. Designers only focus on visual appeal and ignore all other senses. It is important that the designer creates a space in which the user feels comfortable, both visually and emotionally. Dischinger (2006) observed that architects are more inclined to focus on vision than sensory experiences.

What about other senses, such as touch, sound and smell? Why not taste too? There are no other ways to cater to the senses of users. Alvar Aalto’s comments on architecture were based on his belief that furniture used by residents should not make the inhabitants uncomfortable due to the use of glares, heat conductivity and sound reflections. His architecture was designed to appeal to all of the senses. It invited the user into the space and encouraged them touch the materials.

In order to fully understand architecture, it is necessary to look at the human dimension, including their feelings and environment. Spaces and building don’t have to be shells, but can stimulate the mind and body of users. The hope is that multi-sensory architecture will enhance the human experience in these spaces. Architects need to create spaces that will engage users’ senses, which in turn will shape their emotional connection and perception of space. Sensory design critics argue that the design is too multi-sensory and overwhelms users’ perceptions, creating a space they don’t want to be in. Charles Landry argues in 2006 that multi-sensory design enhances space identity rather than overwhelming it.

This research examines how multisensory experiences can be incorporated into architectural design. It also explores the impact of these experiences on the user. In case studies of current designs, the benefits and possible negative impacts of a sensory design is investigated. This thesis reveals how the senses are able to communicate with their surroundings in order to create an inviting and soothing environment. It is a practical way to approach architectural design by using sensory design. This research will investigate how we can “see” what is invisible with the whole body and not just the eyes. It is hoped that design techniques will be developed to integrate people into spaces with meaning through unique designs and experiences.


  • benjaminchambers

    Benjamin Chambers is an educator and blogger who focuses on using technology in the classroom. He has written for sites like The Huffington Post and The EdTech Digest, and has been featured in outlets like Forbes and The New York Times. Chambers' work has helped him to develop a following of educators and students who appreciate his down-to-earth approach to learning technology.